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The mongoose is a member of the Viverridae family of small, cat-like carnivores. They are found in Asia, Africa, and southern Europe in more than forty varieties, ranging between one and four feet in length. Mongooses feed on insects, crabs, worms, lizards, and other small creatures (as well as eggs and sometimes fruits), but they are best known for their ability to fight and kill venomous snakes such as the cobra. They are able to do this because of their speed, agility, and resistance to the venom of most snakes (the viper being a notable exception).

Some species of mongoose can be easily domesticated. They are fairly intelligent and can be taught simple tricks, so they are often kept as pets to protect the home from vermin. However, they can be more destructive than desired; when imported into the West Indies for the purpose of killing rats, they destroyed most of the small, ground-based fauna. Because of this, it is illegal to import mongooses into the United States.

The most famous popular artistic representation of the animal is in the Jungle Book story Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling, which depicts the adventures of a young mongoose defending his human family from murderous cobras.

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